Complementary Therapies Help Hospice Manage Pain & Symptoms

Senior Man receiving massage therapyWhen the phrase “pain management” is used people often think it automatically means powerful medications.  
For hospice providers, however, the use of complementary therapies is just as prevalent. Used in conjunction with traditional methods or on their own, programs like music therapy, massage, art and more can help hospice patients manage both the pain and symptoms of a life-limiting illness.


What are complementary therapies?

     There are 1,800 different types of therapies worldwide that can be considered complementary or alternative. They range from herbal and dietary supplements to art, music, energy, light and many more.

      Those that are most commonly used in hospice are:

  • Music therapy
  • Creative arts therapy
  • Massage
  • Acupuncture
  • Aromatherapy
  • Reiki
  • Pet therapy

     While each of these therapies offers a different approach, they share one common outcome. That is their ability to help relieve some of the stress and anxiety that is common among chronically ill patients or those with a terminal illness. In a study by the National Institutes of Health ( patients reported that complementary therapies helped them manage their emotional and spiritual pain. That in turn helped to reduce anxiety.


     When stress and anxiety can be reduced, the body’s overall ability to manage pain improves. Heart rate, breathing and blood pressure may all fall in to a more normal range and pattern.  Digestion improves.  Even the body’s immune system can rally.  The result may be a decreased need for the more powerful medications typically associated with end of life.


Who pays for complementary therapies in hospice?

     Most hospice providers include at least a few types of complementary therapies in the services they offer to patients and families at no cost. Hospices often rely on volunteers to provide the services.  For example, pet therapy and massage therapy are both popular programs.  Volunteers with dogs certified in therapy or a licensed massage may donate their time to help hospice patients.


     While the overall use of complementary therapies in hospice continues to grow, the numbers of patients receiving one or more therapies is still low. The NIH study revealed just 25% of hospice patients took advantage of complementary therapy.


Have you or a loved one ever used an alternative therapy? Did you find it helpful?  Post your comments on our Facebook page (Seniors in Transition, LLC) or on the link below!


     From personal care needs and case management to guardianship concerns, Seniors in Transition provides consulting services to help families turn frustrating health care problems into quality, affordable solutions. Seniors in Transition is here to help families in the Fort Collins, CO and Loveland, CO areas. Call us today at 970.204.6977, or contact us.


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